So over the weekend, my glasses broke. As displayed in the accompanying picture, the top half of the frames are made of metal while each lens is held in by a small elastic band. The glasses lost a battle with my knee and one of the bands split in two.
With my two kids in tow, I went to a nearby glasses store and asked them if they could fix my glasses. They referred me to another nearby store with an optometrist on site. The second store claimed they had the necessary band and told me it would take 20 minutes to fix. While waiting and refereeing my children, a kind lady at the front desk asked me if I had had my prescription checked recently. I hadn’t, and before I knew it, my eyes were tested and the optometrist was going over the results with me, which included a slight change in my vision.
After this, I was directed to a saleslady to help me buy two new pairs of glasses, since “having a back-up pair is crucial”. While my kids argued over where exactly the border was in between their two seats, the saleslady proceeded to offer me:
- The second pair of glasses at half price, since I shouldn’t buy new lenses for my current old pair of glasses.
- Half price on both sets of lenses.
- Anti-glare protection.
- Titanium, flexible frames that could withstand twisting and other mishaps.
- Lenses that darken when exposed to sunlight.
- A 30-day warranty.
- The ability to talk to my wife “if your budget cannot handle it”.
I was eager to get done, calm the kids down and not have to think about it anymore. Luckily, I remembered my original goal to merely fix my old pair and my ability to see through challenges to my finances and spending autonomy in my marriage.
As I was driving home grumbling about almost spending hundreds of dollars without thinking and the increasing lack of professionalism and courtesy in retailing (and how such complaints are eerily similar to my parents’ thinking a generation ago), I realized something: Is working with an estate planning lawyer so much different?
Many times, I have received calls from people who need a simple will or who just need me to check over a document or two. Perhaps when they called me, they similarly were turned off by my onslaught of offers including:
- Not only a will, but a revocable trust.
- Powers of attorney.
- Living wills.
- HIPAA authorizations.
- Temporary and Standby guardianship forms.
- Inclusion of digital estate planning clauses in the documents.
- Pet trusts.
- Education trusts and IRA trusts.
- Life insurance and beneficiary designation planning.
- Any other documents or advice appropriate for the individual situation.
- Bound copies of all such documents.
Heck, perhaps even anyone reading this list may be annoyed by what looks like a not-so-subtle attempt to list my unique and wonderful services that you would be crazy not to jump at. Or that the prior sentence, while appearing to show honesty, is actually a thinly-veiled attempt to gain the reader’s trust. Or that the last sentence also did that. As did that one. And that one.
But the key issue seems to be this — despite the salesmanship, the overwhelming choices, and the sometimes higher than expected costs, can the service provider’s ultimate answers be viewed as appropriate and trustworthy?
It is my conscious hope that potential clients know that estate planning services differ from the practices of my local eyeglass store in at least the following ways:
- Lawyers are subject to Rules of Professionalism, which if violated, could result in fines, public censure, suspension, or even expulsion from the practice of law.
- Lawyers are supposed to provide a contract listing all the services that will be done before initiating the relationship with the client. Any unforeseen additional services added on later require either a brand new contract or at least the client’s direct approval (usually in writing).
- With possible exceptions for close family and long-term friends, the lawyer is not supposed to directly solicit business one-on-one from anyone.
- The lawyer’s recommendations are supposed to be based purely on doing their best to resolve the client’s stated needs.
- Most estate planners I know want the client to think through all the options carefully and be confident with their final decisions.
Then on the other hand, are we fooling ourselves into believing that there are clear differences?
So, reader, I have some questions for you:
- Do you perceive any difference?
- Or do you hold the same skepticism towards lawyers, if not more, as you do to retailers?
- What do you think lawyers could do to gain your further trust?
Please comment below. Otherwise, thanks for stopping by!
- Estate Planning – Fast and Distant or Slow and Local? (ncestateplanningblog.com)
- Trust in Trusts (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
- Why Many Estate Planning Lawyers Don’t Quote Fees Before Meeting You (estateplanninginfoblog.com)